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How to Incorporate Brand Advocates into Your Marketing Strategy

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Holly Cordner – Enjoy!

When asked about how and why they make purchases, most people say that reviews and recommendations play a major role. That holds true even in the B2B marketplace—according to one study, 60 percent of B2B tech buyers look at peer reviews before making buying decisions.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, when it comes to your own purchasing decisions, are you more likely to trust an ad or a person who’s actually used the product?

The question is, how can you boost positive reviews of your business and how should that play into your overall marketing strategy?

Brand Advocates: Generating Buzz

Brand advocates are more than just loyal customers—they’re ambassadors. They’re people who believe in your business and who are willing to answer questions, write blog posts, and help you create favorable word-of-mouth buzz. They can help you by reviewing your products and helping convince leads who may be on the fence about your services to take the plunge.

Who are your advocates? Where can you find them?

Begin by identifying customers who have had a good experience with your brand.

  • Get in touch with people who are interacting with you on social media or on review sites like Yelp.
  • Find customers who’ve given you positive reviews on comment cards or surveys.
  • Ask your salespeople—which customers to they turn to for references? Which customers are most satisfied with their experience?

Try to identify potential advocates on a regular basis—every three to six months or so—to keep your pool fresh.

This should go without saying, but in case it’s not obvious: in order to keep your loyal customer base large and happy, you need to provide consistently great service. It’s not enough to be just “adequate”— most companies do that—you need to “wow” your customers with attention to detail and personalized service. Try to accommodate special requests when you can, and let them know how much you appreciate them.

Setting Up a Brand Advocacy Program

Identifying advocates is only half the battle. You need to decide what to do with them once you’ve found them. Here are some ideas about how you can leverage their power to help maintain a positive image for your brand:

  • Ask them to follow you on social media and comment on and share what you post.
  • Ask them to write positive reviews and testimonials on your site, review sites like Citysearch, or their blog and social media profiles.
  • Ask them if you can film them talking about their experience with your brand.
  • Ask them to contribute to communities or forums.
  • Ask them for referrals.
  • Ask them to write blog posts or create images for you.
  • Ask them if you can use their experience as a case study.
  • Ask them to speak directly (over the phone or via email or chat) to potential customers.
  • Ask them to come up with FAQ questions and answers or identify improvements for your website.

These are just some of the ways that brand advocates can be put to good use. You should get creative and decide on which strategies will work for your business.

You should probably start small. Ask potential advocates to do something easy at first, like follow you on Instagram or give you a five star rating on Google+, before moving on to bigger projects like testimonials and blog posts. You may also want to consider setting up some sort of rewards or kickback program where advocates get a percentage off, a nominal payment, or free products (à la Amazon Vine) for completing tasks.

You should also invest some time in mentoring and quality control. You should let your advocates be authentic voices for your brand, but you may also want to set some guidelines if, for instance, you plan on connecting brand advocates with potential customers directly.

How about you? How are you leveraging the power of brand advocates in your business?

Holly Cordnerhollycordner is a marketing manager living in Salt Lake City. She writes for Needle, which helps businesses of all sizes identify brand advocates and connect them with customers. Her first love is technology with tofu coming in a close second.

 

Marketing Automation for Small Business

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Wendy Coombes– Enjoy!

photo credit: iStock Photo

photo credit: iStock Photo

If you are a small business marketer, you know that the number of channels across which to deliver your key messages has increased considerably. While it is great that we have so many opportunities to attract and engage our ideal client, managing multiple channels effectively can seem like a full time job.

This explains why the biggest group of marketing automation buyers are small and midsize businesses. So let’s take a look at this trend and marketing automation’s effectiveness for small business.

What is Marketing Automation?

As businesses realize they need get on board with web marketing strategies, they typically “bolt on” solutions. They open up a Twitter or Facebook account, dabble in LinkedIn groups or do an email shot using a free cloud-based email marketing solution.

Managing communication programs across multiple applications is a logistical nightmare; it lacks overview and the ability to measure its effectiveness.

Marketing automation enables businesses to execute campaigns, automate processes, and measure their impact.

How can you benefit from workflow-based lead management?

The most frequently requested feature of marketing automation solutions is lead management. Leads are the lifeblood of business, so it is easy to see why marketers consider lead generation their biggest challenge and most important goal. Marketing automation assists in a number of ways.

First, to attract on the web you need valuable and optimized content. The best marketing automation platforms let you create:

  • optimize site pages
  • calls to action and landing pages
  • (smart) forms

Other capabilities that play a role in lead management let you:

  • view which content your leads engage in and present leads with further content they will find relevant
  • score leads
  • do progressive profiling
  • set up event triggered email workflows

Besides these lead management capabilities, it should offer closed-loop analysis, search engine optimization tools, email marketing, and other tools to manage online multi-channel campaigns.

There’s no substitute for marketing planning

Whilst marketing automation can increase the effectiveness of lead generation and result in increased revenue, it is not a substitute for a customer-centric marketing strategy. Effective marketing plans start with a thorough understanding of your buyer personas and the buyer’s journey as they research and evaluate your products or services.

A look at the business case

Traditionally used by large e-commerce organizations, marketing automation has become more widely adopted and therefore more available, affordable, and practical for small business. Marketing automation combined with inbound strategies offers measureable benefits for small business:

  • lower cost per lead
  • improved customer lifetime value
  • increased revenue
  • improved sales effectiveness
  • better ROI on your marketing investment

What is important to recognize is that it is not a quick fix solution. If you start with a low-traffic base and want grow traffic organically, do not expect to see significant increases in traffic for 9 months (maybe somewhat shorter if you have ample resources to pump out good quality content).

On the other hand, if your site is already getting good traffic but you are not converting sufficient leads, you may see results much sooner by utilizing best practice conversion methods.

What to look for in a marketing automation platform

If you plan to research marketing automation solutions, look for things like:

  • What is included in the minimum license fee? Many providers will charge you based on the size of your contact database. Check how many contacts are included in the base rate. You really want a solution that is scalable but you might want to know whether charges are capped once you reach a certain number of contacts.
  • What is the minimum license period? Many require an initial12 months. Ask if the entire license fee is payable up front or whether they accept monthly installments.
  • Read real case studies of businesses like yours who have adopted marketing automation and see if you can get in touch directly with current users to hear their experiences first hand.
  • Is user training included? It is not unusual for training to be charged additionally. Check what training is included.

As mentioned before, there is no substitute for good marketing planning and strategy, but once you have your goals and roadmap set out, marketing automation can do some of the heavy lifting and provide you with the analytics to achieve sustainable lead campaign success.

Wendy Coombeswendy profile photo_150px copy is an inbound marketing consultant with a background in Technology and B2B marketing as well as e-Commerce.   Her inbound marketing agency, Brite Kite, is based in Sydney Australia. Wendy is passionate about helping traditional professional service providers such as lawyers and accountants, transition to online lead generation and realizing a better ROI on their marketing investment. Connect with Wendy on twitter via @wendycoombes.

 

Gambling with Facebook Ads: How to Win Against a Stacked Deck

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Claire Pelletreau – Enjoy!

ducttape-oCPM-screenshot“Facebook Ads is just like gambling! I got this rush every time I looked and saw that my numbers had gone up again!”

Not everyone has this reaction to Facebook ads, especially their first time out of the gate. Running paid campaigns can also bring about that crushing disappointment of gambling: your money runs out and you’ve got nothing to show for it.

But you have a lot more control over the results of Facebook ads than at the Blackjack table, so this investment could be the very risk your business should be taking.

Put List Building on Autopilot

List building is one of the easiest (and cheapest) pieces of marketing to turn over to Facebook Ads. It isn’t hard to entice people to click on an ad that offers something of value to them, especially if it’s free. A collection of 50 green smoothie recipes? Yes, please.  A free guide to getting bumped up to business class on every flight? Hook me up. Even if I’m on Facebook just to procrastinate or see what friends are up to, I’ll click on your ad if it offers me something useful.

And when you combine a compelling ad with a great landing page that converts – You just hit list building pay dirt. You can use ads to drive traffic to your landing page around the clock! But make sure you pay attention to the right numbers before you even launch your campaign.

The “Fine Print” of Running Facebook Ads

It’s important to remember that Facebook is the dealer here. He knows how to wrangle your chips away from you, even if it still seems like you’re winning. Let me give you an example:

One of the best ads to run is the Promoted Page Post ad. These ads can show up in your Newsfeed with the little word “Sponsored” at the top and bottom. If you don’t spot that “Sponsored” word, you can easily confuse these ads for posts from pages you forgot you liked in the past.  You can comment on this ad, like it, share, and click on the photo if it has one.

So let’s say you’re showing me a hilarious photo of a hipster cat with glasses. Chances are I’m going to click on that photo to see it full-size. Then maybe I notice your image caption talking about funny cat videos, and a link.  The hope is that I click on the link and head over to your site.

Here’s the catch, though: Facebook just charged you for 2 clicks. It doesn’t matter whether I sign up for your cat-laden newsletter, or if I ever return to your site again. You get billed for both of those clicks.

This may seem like nothing when you’ve got a super high CTR (click-through-rate) and these clicks are costing you $0.33 each.  But imagine that for every click through to your landing page, you’re paying for 2 clicks ($0.66). And you have an opt-in conversion rate of 25%, meaning 1 out of every 4 people who visit actually sign up for your newsletter.

So you spend 2 x 4 x 0.33 for one email sign-up: $2.64.

This is not necessarily a bad cost-per-conversion. It is, however, far from the $0.33 cost-per-click that Facebook had you focusing on.

“How can I keep my cost-per-conversion down?”

There are a few ways, but the easiest is to use Facebook’s Optimized CPM (oCPM) bidding option. This means that Facebook will show your ad to people who are more likely to take a specific action based on their previous behavior on Facebook. So if you want to get people to like your page, you choose that option and Facebook will supposedly make it happen. If you want people to click through to your website and check it out, maybe read a blog post, you can choose to have the ad optimized for link clicks. If you want someone to go from seeing your ad to signing up for your list, you choose the “website conversion” option.

“But Optimized CPM gives me a crazy expensive Cost Per Mille!”

It looks that way. Compared to those ultra-cheap cost-per-click numbers you’re used to seeing, a $12 CPM (or cost per 1,000 impressions) looks like it’s Facebook’s way of hitting you where it hurts, and hard.

But before you go back to CPC bidding, you have to do the math.

Let’s go back to the earlier example where your cost-per-click was $0.33, and you needed four people clicking on your ad twice to nail one email sign-up. You’re paying $2.64 per conversion.

If Optimized CPM shows your ad to people who are more likely to opt in to your newsletter, the conversion rate on your landing page should get a bump. If that bump can bring your cost-per-conversion down to less than $2.64, who cares how much your Cost Per Mille is?

So give Optimized CPM a try for your next lead generation campaign. In order to choose this option you’re going to need to have conversion tracking set-up and use the Power Editor to choose all the correct options.

Enjoy the rush of watching your list grow and even the sweet agony brought about by a painfully-low CTR. Don’t go all in on your first campaign – there are so many different ways you can “win” by testing out different versions of your ads.

And stay away from using photos of cats in your ads – there really is such thing as ad images that are too good.

cp-bio-photoClaire Pelletreau is a Facebook ads consultant and confessed conversion junkie. She’s been playing with Facebook ads since 2011 and sharpened her skills running paid campaigns for Laura Roeder’s five and six-figure launches. Now she applies everything she learned to helping other small businesses bring in more subscribers and sales than they ever imagined.

Get more bang for your advertising buck – click here to grab Claire’s free step-by-step guide to list building with Facebook ads!

 

The Biggest Stereotype About Marketing Automation

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Alexandra Skey – Enjoy! 

It’s not our fault that most of us associate marketing automation with complex campaigns run by advanced marketers in bigger companies.

That’s how it took off in the last decade.

But that stereotype is threatening the future of small businesses…

How It All Began

We know content marketing works.

We also know that more information is being created every 48 hours than the entire amount we made before 2003.

So, every 2 days it becomes harder to create content to engage people, especially those who are interested in what you do and are likely to become your customers.

This is a serious problem.

Roughly 5-7 years ago, a group of companies saw what was happening and did something about it.

They were HubSpot, Pardot, and Marketo, among others.

These companies knew it would be almost impossible to succeed at content marketing without streamlining the process. So they started automating tasks their corporate clients needed, and combining them in one place.

That was the birth of marketing automation platforms.

Why They’re “Too Complex”

Since the key with any great campaign is delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time, one of the things the industry became focused on was automating emails. Specially, creating complex trigger scenarios so that you could deliver those messages on an individual basis, ideally converting more customers.

Now we send over 294 billion emails a day.

Unfortunately, that complexity plagues the stereotype of marketing automation. It’s what most people think of when you mention the concept.

Besides the price.

And while it’s certainly useful for businesses with significant traffic, the cost and time involved is prohibitive for many smaller companies.

The Irony

The irony of marketing automation is that it’s viewed as complex and time consuming – yet the goal is to simplify tasks and save you time reaching your most profitable customers.

It’s simply a way of automating mundane tasks, so you can be more effective and reserve those spurts of energy for creative projects.

Due to the rapid adoption of content marketing, and the associated challenges of creating successful inbound campaigns, it will become more crucial than ever for all businesses to start adapting these time saving techniques.

In fact, some may be doing it without even realizing it:

  • When you use an SEO tool like Yoast to optimize your blog, that’s marketing automation – because instead of learning the rules, Yoast shows you what to do.
  • When you use a plugin to automatically share posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social channels, that’s marketing automation.
  • When you schedule your tweets using a service like Hootsuite, Buffer or TweetDeck…
  • When you monitor mentions of your business on the social web using Meshfire or Google…
  • Even when you use canned email responses to answer common questions…

It’s not about saving 1 hour by doing something different.

It’s about streamlining the process, so you save 3 minutes here and 8 minutes there at every step along the way.

With marketing automation, everything counts.

What’s next?

The demand from businesses with smaller budgets and time requirements is growing.

While the first wave of automation platforms was built for enterprise teams and budgets, we’re now seeing companies like ScribeContent, Orbtr, Spokal, Nurture and others designing platforms specifically for smaller teams, making it easier for anyone to create successful content campaigns.

Raab Associates recently showed that over 75% of companies adopting automation platforms in the USA are now small and micro businesses. And B2B Online shows that over 50% have fully integrated automation into their marketing.

 

photo credit: B2B Online

photo credit: B2B Online

 

Here’s the catch.

As it becomes easier for small businesses to leverage tools to make their content better, it will become easier to create better content. This means the quality of content that businesses need to produce to attract potential customers (and nurture them over time) will increase.

This is fantastic news for customers.

And it’s good for small businesses too, because those who can implement time saving techniques into their marketing practices now will have an even better chance of getting ahead of their competition and succeed at doing what they love.

Henry Ford was right.

Automation leads to great things.

AlexandraSkeyAlexandra Skey is the co-founder of Spokal, an award winning marketing automation platform for small businesses, and author of Zero Friction, which explores the future of online retail and will be released in fall 2014.

She lives on the west coast of Canada and is obsessed with customer experiences, horses and kiteboarding. You can connect with her on Twitter.

 

4 Helpful Automation Tools

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Josh Ludin – Enjoy!

A friend of mine, and fellow small business founder, told me a funny story recently. He had a meeting scheduled with a bank to secure a loan – his very first meeting of this sort – and during the meeting, the loan officer asked him “So what is your position? President, CEO?” My friend sat back, thought for a second, and replied “well last night, I was the Janitor!”

As a small business owner, we wear many hats and are in charge of managing many aspects of our business simultaneously. Whether it’s customer service, bookkeeping, sales, fulfillment and distribution, or any of the other necessary tasks required to maintain a business, time is of the essence. And now, with so many social media channels available to communicate with our customers and build a pipeline of leads, it’s extremely time consuming to stay on top of your game. So, I wanted to give you a cheat sheet of tools that will make automating your social media so much easier and consequently, more effective. You will love this list, but I want to preface it with this note, which somebody advised me of years ago and I couldn’t agree more; don’t try and tackle all social media channels at once, but rather develop 1 or 2 at a time until you have a strong following and are managing them without too much of a headache. If you try and dive into Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, LinkedIn, Google+, and so on, you will just be spinning your wheels. So to the cheat sheet…

1. TweetAdder

Building a twitter following is tough, and then once you build that following, you really need to be posting 3-5 times daily in order to really remain relevant. But Twitter can be such an amazing tool for lead generation, and it is by far the easiest tool to use to communicate with your customers. TweetAdder is great because it allows you to completely automate your tweeting. You simply upload a list of tweets you want to send out (I usually do about 50 at a time) and then you tell TweetAdder the intervals of time between tweets and you’re done. Additionally, you can pick other Twitter accounts to retweet at set intervals as well. And then on top of that, it makes it easy to add people that are part of your target audience. You can search for people who are using certain keywords, and start following them, and then about 15% of those people end up following you back (and, you can unfollow people who don’t!). This tool has helped me build up my twitter following, and manage my communication with ease.

2. Dlvr.it

When you write a new blog post, you know that you need to share it across all of your social media channels. But that takes a lot of time. You have to create a new post for each and every one of the channels, so Dlvr.it created an application that makes it much easier. You select your RSS feed and assign it to each account that you want to share your new posts on. And then, whenever a new post is created, the RSS feed automatically distributes the post across all of your social media channels. You can be completely hands off.

3. AWeber

We’ve all heard the saying before “The Money is In the List” – but once you build up your email marketing list, how you reach out to your new leads is key. AWeber allows you to send new leads emails in pretermined intervals so you can lead your potential customers right down the sales pipeline as you would like, every time.

4. Zapier

Zapier allows you to ‘Zap’ new posts from one online tool to another – and works with almost every online platform out there. For example, if you post a new video on your youtube channel, it will send out a Facebook message. So you can automate events to take place on one platform when another specified event happens on another platform.

 

As I mentioned, social media management is extremely time consuming. Fortunately, all these headaches have been experienced by others, so now we have amazing tools at our disposal. Automating this aspect of your business is a necessity – suggestions for any other tools that I missed would be greatly appreciated!

 

josh-297x300

Josh Ludin is the founder of the subscription box Blind Surprise and writes about his path to making money online, and more importantly his mistakes to avoid, at NeverJobHunt.com. He is determined to motivate aspiring entrepreneurs to take the leap of faith and begin building businesses and create the lifestyles many only dream of from the confines of their cubicle. Additinonally, he writes about start up advice and hacks to help young businesses get over that first plateau and find profitability.

Why Your Business Needs a Google+ Page Too

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Diana Gomez – Enjoy! 

If you are on Google+ (which you are) and if you run a business (which you do), you also need to create a G+ Page for your business that is wholly separate and distinct from your personal G+ profile.

Essentially, Google designed Google Pages to address the specific needs of business owners seeking to maximize Google’s features for their professional purposes.

Here are some of the basics you need to know for mastering your G+ business listing and some tips on where to devote your energies to reap the greatest rewards in harnessing the power of G+ for your business marketing strategy as well as enhancing your business’ reach across the online realm:

First Impressions Matter

With so much competition in any given field, unless you can create a visually stimulating profile page for your business, there’s a high likelihood that searchers will simply move on to the next business in the carousel that has prioritized its appearance.

At a minimum, your business page cover photo needs to represent your brand and indicate what line of business you are in. You may love kittens, but your business’ cover photo is not the venue to display this affinity (unless you are in the business of kittens, that is). If you are not, leave them on your personal G+ Profile Page or on an adorable YouTube video where they belong.

Ideally, the photo will be clear and will adapt well regardless which device the user employs. More and more searchers are doing so via mobile devices, so making sure your G+ Business Page is compatible is a must.

In addition, make certain that your properly linked website conveys the same message!

Google Maps Matters

The best way to establish your place “on the map” is by establishing your place on the map, literally.

When your business profile clearly lists your business address, your physical location will automatically show up when people search for your area of expertise using Google Maps. And that’s why it’s also important that you select the most-appropriate business category – Google wants to connect you with your potential customers, so help them help you.

Make sure your listing shows your address exactly as it appears on your website. Additionally, don’t just stop at your business name, location and physical phone number. Provide as much information as possible. Include hours of operation, a description of what you do in general, and a few specifics such as: most popular products and most requested information.

And perhaps most important, consistency across all of your business channels is key. If Google lists your address differently, change the one on your website to match theirs. Those who are willing to play the game according to Google’s rules are the ones whose businesses will benefit in the end.

Connect Through Conversations

One of the newest aspects of social media that Google is working to integrate across their own products is hashtags. Whenever you post something on your business page (and you should as often as possible), include relevant hashtags because Google now recognizes those in searches when it shows up on their own G+ outlets. If you are using the “right” hashtag at the “right time,” Google just might reward you with an increased rank in search.

As we all know, there’s no secret formula for getting to the top of the Google search charts. But if you follow these optimization guidelines when setting up your Google+ Business Page and listing, you are that much closer to connecting to your customers when they seek you out via Search, Maps, G+ or mobile devices.

And the best part is that by putting the work in upfront and staying on top of regular updates, from that point on, the rest will be taken care of by Google marketing automation.

DianaGomezDiana Gomez is the Marketing Coordinator at Lyoness America, where she is instrumental in the implementation of marketing and social media strategies for USA and Canada. Lyoness is an international shopping community and loyalty rewards program, where businesses and consumers benefit with free membership and money back with every purchase. Check out Lyoness on Facebook.

 

Creating a Strong Online Presence for Marketing Success

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Lucy Godwin – Enjoy!  

Online Presence

According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses – and if the vast majority of your potential customers are online, you should be, too. Having a strong online presence is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, no matter what size your business is or what industry it belongs to.

An online presence is important for outbound marketing because it reinforces your brand and what you offer to your target market. Once you’ve communicated with your audience, you’ll need to have a web presence that helps portray why your product or service is so great – because that’s the next stop for the majority of your potential customers.

It’s also vital for inbound marketing, because quality online content will help attract customers even if they haven’t heard of your brand.

So here are three of the first things you need to look at when building your online marketing efforts.

1. Your website

All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website. It can be extremely basic, but it should contain the fundamental information customers – both existing and potential – need. For example, one frustration I encounter far too often is restaurants that don’t have a website with a current menu, opening hours, location and contact information. I know I’m not alone in that if I can’t find these details, I’m less likely to visit the restaurant – but there’s no reason a business should lose potential customers over something that’s so easy to remedy and costs very little.

A basic website is pretty easy to set up using an application like WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging tool and content management system that gives users the option to pay a little more for the premium version. If it’s relevant to your business, you can even add an online shop – after all, in 2013, 70 percent of consumers preferred to do their retail shopping online.

If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a great guide to WordPress for small businesses on Social Media today. It’s easy to understand and runs through the factors you need to consider and steps you need to take when setting up your small business website.

If you’re starting from scratch and not sure what your website should include, survey your existing customers. Whether you send out an email asking for their input, or mention it casually while making their coffee, it’s the best way to get the insight you need – people love to be involved and share their opinions.

2. Search engine optimization

Once you have a website, it’s vital that it can actually be found by search engines. After all, 89 percent of consumers use search engines to research a product, service or business before making a decision. To take advantage of this, you need to make sure to look at search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.

In case you’re not completely sure what SEO means, how it works, or why it’s important, here’s a quick rundown:

  • What: The purpose of SEO is to make it easy for search engines to find your website and list it in their ‘organic’ (as opposed to ‘paid’) results.
  • Why: People tend to trust search engines, so websites that appear high in results pages are more likely to receive traffic.
  • How: Using search-engine friendly methods to improve your website.
  • Who: Everyone – anyone who has information that people want to find on the internet should be using SEO techniques.
  • When: All the time – SEO is an ongoing process. It’s important to monitor the information on your website and make sure it’s current and correct. Search engines also love new content, which is why starting a blog can do wonders for your SEO.
  • Where: Major search engines include Google, Yahoo and Bing. They connect people all over the world to the content they desire, from products to services to information.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz and Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide both give a fantastic overview of the basics and will help you optimize your website.

3. Social media

Social media is an important part of your online presence that improves your chances of generating additional revenue and building customer loyalty. It allows customers, potential customers and other interested parties to engage easily via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives.

Although not every social media channel will be relevant to each business, it’s definitely worth looking into your options. For example, Facebook and Twitter will serve a purpose for almost any business – it’s a great place to post news, tips, photos and videos and ask and answer questions.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you might find Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, FourSquare helpful. Make sure to research available channels and find out if they will work for you. Instagram, for example, is a photo-sharing network, so it works wonderfully for businesses selling ‘beautiful’ products such as jewelry, food or housewares. It’s important to consider your target demographic – Instagram has around 130–150 million users, over two-thirds of which are women between the ages of 18 and 35. With Instagram, you’ll also need to keep a smartphone handy to properly access your account and engage with your audience.

Once you’ve decided which social media channels to use, get a clear idea of the kind of content you can share. The more compelling and engaging your material is, the more likely your followers will like, comment and share your posts. Engagement is key to promoting your brand – not only will it make you more appealing to existing customers, the more positive social activity that goes on, the higher the chance is that their friends will be exposed to your brand and intrigued by what you have to offer.

When they do this, they’re engaging with your brand and their networks (friends, family, colleagues) are seeing that engagement and may be prompted to check you out for their own needs.

 

lucy-godwinAuthor bio: Lucy Godwin lives in Wellington, New Zealand and is an outreach writer at Xero accounting software. Her role exposes her to the small business, startup and entrepreneur community, and she blogs for them about everything from marketing to cloud computing to finance. Connect with her on Twitter @LucyJaneGodwin.

How to Social Surround Your Customers and Prospects

social surround

photo credit: aenimation via photopin cc

While the title of this post could sound a little stalkerish, the fact is you can better serve your customers and attract new ones when you use social media to create a more complete picture of your ideal customer’s world.

Employing tools and routines that give you a deeper glimpse into what your customers care about, are doing each day, can’t find enough of, are looking for, just accomplished, just completed, just lost, just attended or just got let down by is how you discover ways to serve, add value and build deeper relationships.

Below are five elements of a social surround game plan.

The usual suspects

It should probably go without saying that the first step is to friend, follow and like. Make sure that the social network activity on the biggest networks is at your fingertips. Social CRM tools like Nimble make it easy to view a more complete customer record and browser add-ons like Rapportive bring social data into email tools such as Gmail. Create Twitter lists of customers and prospects and quickly scan them for actionable bits using a tool like Hootsuite.

Go deeper

Don’t stop at simply connecting with your customers on LinkedIn. Take a good hard look at who else they connect to, who influences them and who they report to. Most networks will show you who someone follows and understanding this can lead to opportunities to connect deeper through already shared connections, find new avenues for expanded business with existing customers and better understand how your customers network. Look at a customer’s “favorited” Tweets, check out Klout to see who your customer interacts with most and see what Groups your customer participates in on LinkedIn for additional clues into what your customer’s passions might be. Sometimes learning more about who else your customer is connected to is more important than simply connecting.

Custom listening

Now it’s time to get smarter about what’s going on in your customer’s world and using that information to add value. Use a tool like Talkwalker to set up custom alerts that relate to your customer’s market or product and look for ways to share this information with your customer. Create industry or keyword specific pages in Scoop.it or aggregate the best blogs posts on a industry by using a tool like AllTop and simply share four or five interesting links in what amounts to a custom newsletter.

Subscribe and join

Don’t forget to subscribe to your customer’s blog and newsletter. Sign up for their in person and online events and use your listening tools from above to keep up on announcements and news. Make sure that you have easy access to all of the content your customers are putting out as it can often provide clues for new opportunities and relationship building discussion points.

Create connection

My final point is a big one. When you effectively mine your customer’s social graph looking for deeper understanding you are more prepared to help them meet all of their objective, even those not related to your business – and that’s how you create unbelievable value and loyalty. Use your listening, connecting and mining routines to look for opportunities to create connections for your customers. Introduce them to journalists you’ve built relationships with. Connect them with that killer programmer you saw them Tweet about needing. Help them fill the VP of Sales position they just mentioned on LinkedIn.

When you employ to right tools and routines to monitor and engage in this manner social media participation will always pay off.